I didn’t grow up in church. When I became a believer, it wasn’t muddled. One day I didn’t know Him. The next I did. Living as a believer was in stark contrast to the girl I was before faith.
That’s why my babies were on the pew when they were three days old. Bundled in pink or blue blankets, tucked close to my chest while I worshiped. They grew up knowing the secret hiding places in the building. They attended Bible quiz classes and were always on time for Sunday school.
It was exactly what I wish I had when I was a little girl.
It was exactly what made it a little more difficult for my children to sort through what they believed, and what were simply handed to them.
I wouldn’t do anything different. Our family was a family of faith. Worshiping God, giving back through service and offerings and investing in others was a way to partner with Him to love others and love God. We have rich memories of kneeling in the altar and sensing the presence and power of our Savior.
But it did create questions that were pressing.
Is Christianity different from other religions?
Is that feeling emotion or is it God?
Is there something more on the other side of faith?
What if everything I believed is wrong?
In some ways, their faith was chosen for them. The answers supplied before they were asked.
Oh friends, there were times that this mama’s heart was tangled in knots, but as we watch our children find answers, we can understand one thing:
Our personal faith journey is just that — personal
I’m not being glib, I promise.
You and I weren’t dragged to the foot of the cross. We willingly walked there. It is the same for our children.
Our heart might quake at some of the questions. We might ache at the thought that they might choose something other than the amazing love of Christ. There is a fear that they’ll choose nothing or something other than following Jesus.
Yet if they don’t ask the questions for themselves, will their faith mean anything when tested? None of us are exempt from hard places where our faith becomes our anchor or, if it’s been wrapped around church or tradition, it’s so shallow that we drown in its emptiness.
Maybe you’re in that same space. Your child has declared that they don’t believe, or they are asking hard questions and you didn’t see it coming.
What can a mama do?
Give them room to ask the hard stuff
Our child’s questions aren’t easily answered. Some of them simply had no black and white answer, not really. Yet it is important that they be given space to ask them.
It’s far easier to say “because I say so,” or “that’s what we’ve always been taught.” But does that work for you? It doesn’t for me.
In fact, pat answers simply shut down the conversation.
We don’t have to always have a tied-in-a-perfect-bow answer. We may share a story from our own experience. Sometimes the questions or doubts drive us to the Word to find the answers. Those conversations aren’t always easy, but they can be honest and deep.
In our culture, a believing child can’t just walk through their school doors and call themselves a Christian. They are scrutinized. Their beliefs are challenged, not just by students but by adults. If they somehow make it through high school in a safety zone, it’s blown away in college.
Giving space for questions provides a safe place, even if we don’t always have an answer.
We can trust that the Holy Spirit is stirring inside our child. We can trust that this is part of the journey to find truth. We can absolutely trust that God is big enough to withstand hard questions.
Now, this is the hard part. Sometimes they may walk away for a season. They may not understand the value of what they’ve always had until they experience life without Him. I wanted to leave this part out, because no mom wants to hear that.
But even in this space, there’s room for their questions, but more so there’s room for our God to partner with us as they ask them.
That brings us to the second, and most important thing we can do.
Don’t let your child’s doubt distract you from joy
Our children watch us. They listen.
Maybe you wonder if they see or hear you at all. Yet in their walk away from faith, they are watching in ways that we might not even catch.
The biggest question they might be asking is tied to our response to their doubts.
Do you believe, mom? Do you really believe?
If so, why are you so tied up in knots over my doubts? Why am I seeing angst rather than trust? Why am I hearing protests rather than your prayers?
Right now is the time to believe that God loves your child even more than you.
Right now is the opportunity to trust that God uniquely stamped your son or daughter’s name on the palm of His hand.
Right now is the moment to assure your child that God isn’t afraid of the tough stuff, or the tougher questions, and allow his doubts to confirm to you the beauty of knowing Him.
Right now is the time to find your own anchor and press in to up with peace and joy.
When your child looks at mom, they know that you love them and want nothing more than for them to follow Jesus.
But inexplainably, they see His love pouring from you. They see faith so deep that it’s not rocked, but rather radiates joy that can only come from Him. They see your smile. They see your belief. They see something so real that they are drawn to the God they see living so big on the inside of you.
And when they come to the end of their selves, they know exactly where to turn.
My children are now adults.
If you were to ask what they believe, their answers would reflect personal and deeply-held convictions.
They don’t look exactly like mine.
They don’t look exactly like the church in which they were raised.
They’re personal — discovered in a journey launched by doubts, honed by experience, and shaped by a God who always loved them.
If your child has walked away from his or her faith or they’re asking hard questions, we’d love to join in with you in encouragement and prayer.
We’ll believe with you and we’ll be here to celebrate with you when your child finds Him on a personal love that changes him or her forever.
This is the book I wrote during my child’s search for answers.
Making It Real: Whose Faith Is It Anyway? is available on Kindle.
It’s written for teens, but as a parent (or if you work with youth in any capacity) it offers insight into the questions that a teen or college student might be asking.
*When you purchase through this link, it helps support this ministry. Thank you!
This really has spoken to me. I have a 22 year old who has experienced a hard time and he is not turning to God. He hasn’t for a long time and has made some bad choices which landed him in jail. I keep letting him know God has a plan and I know he is not believing me. His main question is why did God let this happen. Then I have a 16 year old daughter. She goes to Sunday School, church, youth group, etc. However, she doesn’t do anything at home. I am hoping this is not a path of walking away. This has really put things in a different light for me. It is their journey and I need to pray. I need them to see my light shine and if they have questions, they can ask. Thank you for sharing this! It really is what I needed to read. I am keeping this for the future.
Jennifer, my heart aches for you in your trial. I am praying for both of your children, and for you, as you continue to be a light in their world. Allow God to fill your heart with joy, and trust that He has them in His hands. Both of those ages are so tough, especially in our world today. Praying they experience God in such a way that He could not be denied! Blessings!
Oh Suzie….Thank you for this! My son told me at the age of 19 that he really didn’t believe “all that stuff” and that he had only confessed faith in Jesus as a little boy so that he could “please Mama and Daddy”. It broke my heart, but I smiled through tears and thanked him for his honesty. I told him that I knew better now how to pray for him. Well, he’s 38 now, and still seeking. And I’m still praying. Recently, I began to shift my prayer away from pleading for my son’s soul and more toward standing with Jesus for my son’s life because I know that He loves him even more than I do. Please join with me.
Don’t stop praying, Susan! I love that you said you are standing with Jesus for your son’s life… YES! You are doing it right, sister! Standing with you and believing for the victory, in Jesus name! Blessings!
oh Susie..how your words have helped my soul. A little over a year ago, my college aged son told me he wasn’t sure what he believed. I never saw this coming and for a time it devastated me and the fear was overwhelming. But…as he continues to ask the hard questions, God has given me peace and joy. He needs room to make his faith his own and I need to have the faith I profess. I would welcome your prayers.
Rejoicing with you over the peace and joy you feel during this battle. I will be praying for your son, and standing with you in agreement for victory! May God be ever so present in your son’s life, so there is no room for disbelief. Blessings!
Wow Suzie! The timing of this post is miraculous. I just had this conversation with my daughter this past Thursday. She told me that she no longer believes. It was heartbreaking and my joy was almost taken from me but your words have really given me some answers. Thank you so very much for sharing!!!! I really really needed to hear this. I can’t wait to share this with my husband. I do want her to have her own faith and I am thankful that we CAN talk about it, so for now I will be thankful for that and will pray pray pray for her. Thanks again!
Praying for your daughter, Lisa, and for you as well. Continue to be a light in her world, and hold tight to that joy, sister! Blessings!
I love that this was helpful, Lisa. I pray that you and your husband find so much strength in your faith and in our amazing God as you trust your daughter to His care.
My eyes are full of tears because it is where I am now. As we have sought God how to parent Him in this time we have received the same instruction as you have given. This is so encouraging to a momma who cries out to God on her son’s behalf and longs to be a living, loving, real version of my Savior Jesus Christ. Please pray for my son Kyle as he seeks from his own answers. I has been a little over 3 years since this has begun and I see a softened heart, I see defenses down, and I see a man comfortable with his parents. I pray that God continues to soften his heart and make Himself real to my son. Thank you so much for this Suzie!
How awesome it is that Kyle is still comfortable talking to you about his faith; you must be doing something right! Agreeing with you in prayer that God will speak to and reveal Himself to Kyle’s heart! Blessings, Desiree!
I love this, Desiree. What an amazing mama you are.
Both my children are walking away from God. My daughter more so than my son her boyfriend is Christian Science and she is accepting that because she loves him when she wants to make him happy. Please pray for my children Matt who is 24, and April, 21 and who just moved 3 hours away by train to finish her last 2 years. Her boyfriend moved up there where she is so I’m also concerned that she will be distracted and not place the importance on her studies like she needs to. But my God is the God of the impossible. I just need to learn to step back and let the Holy Spirit work. This came in a really opportune time because this has been on my heart for a while now.
You are so right, Betty, our God is the God of the impossible!!! Praying for you as you continue to trust and let His Spirit work in your children. Blessings!
The wisdom I hear in this is “stepping back and allowing the Holy Spirit to work.” That’s powerful!
Such wisdom here! Our family is in this place right now. Our kiddos have heard bible stories from the time they were very small. And yet- as college students they are in a season of testing.The world today can be such a challenge to navigate. It seems truth is tested at every turn. I am grateful for the confidence I have in the Holy Spirit. I know that He whispers truth to them and will help them recall the truth that has been deeply embedded in them. I’m also grateful for the reminder from your post to stay focused on my own joy and assurance. I agree and believe it matters! Thank you Suzie! 🙂
Thank you so much for this Suzie! My son’s have heard the word of God since the time they were in my belly. Both are adults now with the youngest just having started college. I don’t believe he’s walking away from his faith but I see it changing a bit. He was in church (willingly) all the time in high school. He goes to a college where church is easily accessible and yet he’s not been there once yet. My mother instincts wanted to hound him about it but the Holy Spirit reminded me that He’s got my kids covered. So thank you so much for this reminder!
So glad for the internet, that we sisters can grieve with each other and pray for each others’ children. Please lift up my Hannah (21), who has shared her unbelief with me. My faith that the Holy Spirit will draw her is strong, but so is my grief (it’s been a week).
Prayers needed for my daughter who just turned 25. She was still living at home. Christian school teacher, always grown up in a christian home, went to a christian school and graduated from a christain college. Because shes got with a young man who does not believe, it has taken her from everything. Shes left home, walked off her job, and has nothing to do with family. She had a bond with all of us we felt could never be broken. She was almost close to a perfect kid. Our hearts are so heavy and we are torn as to WHY would she do such a thing. Shes known for a long time that this young man could be poison for her but shes stayed. Lord, hear our prayers!